Uphaar tragedy: Age, Ansals and gift from judiciary


By Ridham Gambhir

Getting old is an unavoidable facet. The same became more of an advantage than a liability when the Ansal brothers got released from their sentenced punishment because of their “old age”.

Sushil Ansal (75) and Gopal Ansal (67) were granted bail on Friday when the Supreme Court said that Sushil is “fairly aged” and his younger brother deserves “parity” with him and that it was not “fruitful” for them to undergo rigorous punishment.

UphaarFire_reutersOn June 13, 1997, 59 people died and over 100 were injured when a fire broke out at Uphaar Cinema, New Delhi during the screening of Border.

A probe into the incident revealed several regulatory violations such as- no functional public announcement system, no emergency lights, foot lights, or exit lights; and blocked gateways (due to unauthorized seating arrangement installed by the theatre authorities).

Ansal brothers alone can’t be held responsible for this fiasco. The fire broke out due to faulty wiring in the transformer that was installed by Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) in the cinema hall.

“The cause of death was suffocation due to the fire and the Ansal Brothers can’t be blamed for that,”  argued Ram Jethmalani , lawyer for the estate barons in 2008 hearing in HC.

If old age is being taken into consideration while releasing the Ansal brothers, then what about Om Prakash Chautala (80) and Subroto Roy (67)? Both of these men are in jail for committing financial crimes, yet they haven’t been released till now considering their “old age”.

As per the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), more than 87,000 people, 60 and above, were arrested under the Indian Penal Code and Special Local Law crimes in 2014. In 2013, around 53,000 people in the age group 50 and above were put behind bars.

346219-uphaarThe victims of this horrible accident united under the banner name of the ‘Association of Victims of Uphaar Fire Tragedy’ (AVUT), which won ₹25 crore as a compensation for their dead relatives. However, Supreme Court, on 13 October 2011, nearly halved the sum of compensation awarded to them by the Delhi High Court.

The fire broke out 18 years back, when Sushil Ansal was 57 years old and Gopal Ansal was 49. Our judicial system didn’t give them an ‘appropriate punishment’ at that time, and now it is ‘replacing’ their punishment by a means of monetary compensation. Have the brothers grown too old or has our law enforcement got too weak?

If the Ansal brothers are too old to deal with the punishment given to them. then think about the families of those 59 who have grown old in the memory of their loved ones.

The tragedy took place a long time back, but it’s wounds are still fresh. And those who gave these wounds have grown “too old” to suffer their wrongdoings! Is this is uphaar (gift) from our judiciary to these brothers?